Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shoe Dilemmas

Unlike most women, I have only five pairs of shoes in my closet:
  1. Bronze Ferragamo T-straps, my wedding shoes ($13.12 — a moment of silence for the original Filene's Basement)
  2. Bronze Me Too ballet flats, synthetic lining horribly deteriorated.
  3. Brown Timberland rubber-soled slides, look like elf clogs, require thick socks.
  4. Black Ferragamo heels with sexy, slender T-straps. Perfect shoes. ($43, Second Time Around. They're size 8AA, so it's a triple miracle that I spotted them, tried them on my 7B foot anyhow, and they fit perfectly).
  5. Black Easy Spirit mid-heeled shoe-boots (shooties? booes?) with tiny side zippers. Like boots, only shorter, these need opaque tights.
Those are my shoes. The last pair is new, the others are between 4 and 14 years old. Before you start thinking that I'm one of those possession-discarding Minimalists, let me assure you that my closet is nevertheless packed with boots, rubber flip-flops, and lots of painful sandals that are shiny-new so I can't get rid of them without guilt. (It is my fate to buy a carefully considered, likely-looking pair of sandals every darn spring, imagining they'll be so comfortable I'll wear them to shreds. But reality always bites within the first hour I wear them out of the house. When flip flops are ridiculously inappropriate, I resort to two pairs that hurt only after awhile, despite years of "breaking in.")

But women need shoes. I love shoes. It's too bad they don't love me. I keep trying to find winners, in fits and starts, like when the seasons are changing and I feel a burst of optimism. My chief excuse is that I occasionally need to look respectable and I hate scrambling around at the last minute for a decent ensemble that doesn't exist. Plus, I suspect that it's a major Fashion Don't for a woman of my age and situation to spend half the year in flip flops. Surely one should have a more fashionable, age-appropriate alternative for all those weeks between May and November. Something attractive and "fun" that one can easily walk a few miles in — is that just too much to ask? Yes.

Don't advise me to wear sneakers or trainers or those "walking shoes" that look like running shoes that aren't fully evolved. I'm not the Proper Bostonian for nothing, despite my flip-flop addiction. Athletic shoes are for being athletic. And that's all.

Anyhow... I've had it with sandals. And my paltry shoe collection won't tide me over until boot season starts. So I recently ordered five pairs of shoes from Anthropologie and J. Crew while they were offering discounts and free shipping. Usually shoe prospects come out of their box and stay on my feet less than 60 seconds; that's all it takes for the pain alarm to sound. But, surprisingly, all five of these shoes seem to have potential. Here they are:

Heels from Anthropologie.

Suede ballet flats from J. Crew.

I desperately need flats since I've worn out my only pair. Plain ballet flats are so versatile, and I see dozens of pretty pairs speeding around Boston's streets every day. But it's amazing how painful ballet flats can be, even though they appear just the opposite. Many of them don't have flexible soles, and often they are too flat. A slight heel is much better for walking. After years of making adorable, unwearable flats, J. Crew has improved their "Cece"style with an internal wedge heel, a flexible rubber sole, gentle gathers for a snug fit, and no shank. I ordered up a half size, and they're close to perfect, although they'll need some breaking in. Of course. (I always wear flats without tights. With other shoes, I go bare-legged when it's warm and wear tights when it's cold.)

There's just one problem with these ballerinas. They're noisy! They make a constant, "grunting" racket as I walk around the apartment, waiting for them to hurt. I had everyone's attention last night as I modeled both colors. So weird. I tried on my old flats to see how noisy they were: slightly, but no comparison. I'm not sure what to do. I googled them. J. Crew must be selling thousands of these and no one is complaining that they're noisy. Leave it to me to find a pretty, comfortable shoe with other problems. I suppose I can get away with grunting shoes as long as I remember to seek out loud places and avoid quiet streets, museums, concert halls, and memorial chapels. I suppose. But then my next challenge will be to pick a color; I don't need two pairs of grunting flats. Or do I?  Both seem to look good with most of what's in my pathetic closet. But navy doesn't work with black and bronze doesn't look good with navy....

All three pairs of Anthropologie heels are charming, and a new look for me. I haven't worn heels routinely since I was in my 30s. I had to dress very nicely when I managed a chamber-music series, and it's strange to recall that I once had a closet full of lovely dresses, elegant jackets, silky blouses and skirts, and beautiful shoes. I used to love getting dressed every day; I wasn't always a hopeless case. Blame freelancing and the dot-com era.

Anyway, the Seychelles T-straps seem truly comfortable, and I can wear them with tights when the weather cools. They're also a deal with my birthday discount: $83. Keepers. The Miss Albright pumps are darling in both colors. They're cut high, so I could wear peds with them if I decide to become a ped-wearer. (I don't think I'll ever wear nylons again, despite all they do for Kate the Duchess.) If I decide to splurge, which color? The yellow is intense, but somehow they go with nearly everything and make a statement I can handle. But the brown pumps are gorgeous and classy, and I think they are a tad more comfortable. 

I'd forgotten that even medium heels make legs look spectacular. Especially legs that live in flip flops. My husband likes all of them, mainly for that reason. But do I need them? Can I afford them? Can I afford not to have them the next time I have to look presentable? What to do....


  1. Keep the shoes! I freelance too and understand the need-only sometime-but-must-be-right dress-up requirement. Those Anthroplogie pumps look amazing, and since they fit, I say keep both. And the T-straps, which I can never wear. Maybe not the noisy flats though - I have noisy trainers, which may seem OK for such, but isn't. They squeal softly every time I walk, and if I'm in the house I keep looking for the source of the squeal until I remember it's the d**n shoes.

  2. Enjoy your new shoes. But sure to save space for some serious walking shoes. Are you able to walk in heels? I can't anymore. I'm a slave to comfort over fashion.

    Mr. Lobster looks slightly like a boot jack. He is adorable!

  3. It's true, only the ballets flats qualify as walking shoes, and not for longer treks. I suppose I should look into a pair of loafers...

    I can walk in certain, mid-to-low heels. The heel is not the problem, it's the painful shoe that's always attached to it. Those T-straps seem very promising. But I tend to slip into heels or painful/cute sandals AFTER walking to an event in something rattier and more bearable.

    But I see women walking around the neighborhood in heels all the time! It must be doable!

  4. those shoes are really cute! and i'm with you on the difficulty of finding a good pair of flats--i have really high arches, and most flats don't have any sort of support whatsoever (i know too much arch support is also bad for your foot, but i think a little is necessary). i have one pair of black flats to my name, but they've gotten destroyed this summer, when i was surprised by two rainstorms, and found myself walking with lakes for shoes.

  5. my suede cece ballets flats squeak too - i wore them to the office today and they were embarrassingly loud. it sucks because they have potential otherwise. I am seriously considering returning them. The idea of restarting the search for the perfect black ballet flat [pretty much the only shoe I wear] again!!

  6. Hi Zahra,

    Rats! I thought it was just me making the flats squeak, and that I simply needed to learn to walk differently, like a stealthy Mohican or something. I kept the bronze suede ones because they are so pretty and versatile, but now I guess I might be back in the same shoeless boat as you. If you find some plain, perfect, comfortable ballet flats, please do let me know!

  7. I found your blog by googling "cece ballet flats squeak". Mine do too! 2nd pair I am returning for the same issue, and my old Cece ballet flats never squeaked.

  8. Like Beatrix I happened upon your blog by searching "JCrew squeaky shoes." I bought the beautiful Everly suede pump and am so sad to return them. They are everything I want except... No, we cannot live with such squeakiness. I cannot believe more people aren't, well, squeaking up about this. PS: I am an editor too, went to Catholic school K-12 and a women's college, adore cats (have 2), love Paris, and clearly love pretty shoes. I'm Mary Ellen, originally from Mass but now living outside Phila. Weird!


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